Archive for the ‘radiation’ Category

Treatment Options for Men With Prostate Cancer-Side Effects You Need to Know

January 22, 2017

Prostate Cancer is the most common cancer in middle aged and older men.  It is the second most common cause following lung cancer of death from cancer in men.

This article will discuss the most common treatment options for prostate cancer and what are the side effects of these treatments.

For younger men with localized disease, surgical removal of the prostate gland either with an open 6-8-inch incision or through a robotic prostatectomy-5 small pencil-sized holes in the lower abdomen that removes the entire prostate gland.

Temporary or even permanent erectile dysfunction (impotence) occurs in many of the men who undergo surgery.  Urinary incontinence, inability to control the flow of urine, occurs in 3-30% of men who have their prostate gland surgically removed.

For older men or for men who have prostate cancer beyond the prostate gland, radiation therapy is treatment option.   The side effects include temporary fatigue, diarrhea or other bowel problems, urgency of urination, and impotence (ED).

For men with spread of prostate cancer beyond the prostate into the bones or lymph nodes, then hormonal therapy is often recommended.  Hormone therapy is used in men with advanced, high-grade prostate cancer. Hormone therapy is also used in men who cancer has recurred after being treated with radiation therapy or surgery.  This is usually determined with an elevation of the PSA level.  Prostate cancer is very sensitive to testosterone, the male hormone produced in the testicles, and removal of testosterone reduces the cancer and helps control the disease but does not cure the problem.

The side effects of hormonal therapy include reduced libido, hot flashes, softening of bones or osteoporosis which leads to bone fractures, impotence, loss of muscle mass, fatigue, weight gain, and increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Chemotherapy is indicated for men who do not respond to removing the testosterone produced by the testicles.  Chemotherapy leads to hair loss, nausea\vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, muscle pain, and weight loss.

Proton therapy is a similar to external radiation that targets difficult to reach tumors and is designed to allow higher doses of radiation to be delivered to the prostate with fewer side effects.

Bottom Line:  Over the past few years there have been numerous options available for the management of localized prostate cancer and even prostate cancer that has spread beyond the prostate gland.  New Orleans has several doctors who are national and even global experts in managing prostate cancer.  For more information, contact your doctor.

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Advance To Every Cancer Patient

January 24, 2015

Cancer and cardiovascular disease are the most common medical causes of death in America. Tremendous advances have been in the treatment of cancer and there is often more than one treatment option for any disease. This is certainly true for prostate cancer where there are multiple treatments such as surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and even no treatment at all but watchful waiting.

Here are my suggestions for each patient who has cancer:

1. Get a second opinion. Each patient needs to be aware of all the treatment options and to feel confident and informed about the options available. For example, a urologist who performs surgery is not likely to recommend radiation therapy when radiation therapy may be the better option for the patient. A second opinion is a chance to gain ore knowledge and insight into the accuracy of the diagnosis. Also if a pathologist looking at a biopsy or surgical specimen makes the diagnosis, I suggest that another pathologist provide a second opinion to confirm the diagnosis.

2. Find the right doctors. Nearly 20% of patients who receive a diagnosis of cancer have the disease in an advanced stage where the cancer has spread to other organs or other areas of the body. These patients with cancer that has spread, as well as all newly diagnosed patients, should get advice from physicians experienced in treating the specific type of cancer. You want to be sure that you are in the right hands.

3. Know what questions to ask. There are 10 questions compiled by the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (www.cancercenter.com/secondopinion) that would be helpful for newly diagnosed cancer patients to bring to their visit with the doctor. These are:

1 What types of diagnostic testing do you perform? An accurate diagnosis is critical because it is the basis upon which your treatment plan will be determined. For example, PET/CT scans help determine the precise location of cancer in the body to accurately plan treatment. Tumor molecular profiling identifies a tumor’s unique blueprint to choose targeted chemotherapy drugs. It’s important to have access to advanced diagnostic tests, as well as physicians who are experienced in performing them.
2 What does my diagnostic testing tell me? The information you should receive from diagnostic tests includes: where the cancer originated, the size of the tumor, the stage of cancer and whether or not it has spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body.
3 What treatment options are available? What do you recommend and why? Many types of cancer have a variety of treatment options available. Your doctor should be able to explain the potential benefits of each to help you understand your options, even if he or she doesn’t perform a specific treatment.
4 What happens if a treatment approach doesn’t work for me? At any point, you should feel comfortable asking your doctor about the status of your treatment. When choosing a care team, you may want to consider doctors willing to try new therapies, depending on your response. Look for professionals who will tailor treatments to your specific diagnosis, and who are willing to pursue other options if your treatment isn’t progressing as expected.
5 What are the side effects of treatment, and how often do your patients experience them? No two people will have the exact same response to cancer treatment, and side effects may vary depending on what type of treatment you choose. Ask your doctor what side effects you might experience, so that you can plan ahead and choose with all of the information you need.
6 How will you help me manage side effects? Integrative therapies can help prevent or manage side effects, so you stay strong and avoid treatment interruptions. Some therapies that can support your wellness during cancer treatment include: nutrition therapy, naturopathic medicine, mind-body medicine, acupuncture, oncology rehabilitation, spiritual support and pain management. Ask your doctor if any of these are available at your hospital, and how they can be incorporated into your treatment plan.
7 How many patients have you treated with my type and stage of cancer, and how successful have you been? Ask how much experience your doctor has treating your type and stage of cancer and whether he/she is a board-certified specialist. You may also want to ask about his/her facility’s treatment results so you can see how successful they have been in treating your cancer type.
8 Who will be involved in my care, how often will they meet and who is my main point of contact? An integrated care team including a surgical, medical, and/or radiation oncologist; dietitian; naturopathic oncology provider; clinical nurse and medical advocate (often a nurse care manager) can ensure you get support for your entire well-being during treatment. If you don’t already have a team like this in place, talk to your doctor about assembling a multidisciplinary team.
9 Where will all my treatments, appointments, tests, etc., take place? When looking for a treatment facility, consider the coordination and convenience of your treatment. Having appointments and procedures in one location can make treatment less stressful for you, and it may allow you to start treatment sooner.
10 How will you help me balance my cancer care with the demands of my normal life? Your cancer treatment should adapt to your individual needs, and family and professional obligations. Talk to your doctor about your personal needs, so that all aspects of your life are considered when choosing a treatment plan.

4. Stay strong. You will often experience significant side effects dealing with your treatment or the disease. I recommend that you consult with a nutritionist to be sure that you are receiving the right combination of calories, vitamins, and nourishment in order to be in the best physical shape to fight the disease. I also suggest a regular program of exercise that enhances your heart, lungs, and muscles to keep you in the best body-mind condition.

Bottom Line: The cancer diagnosis is often shocking and requires each patient to muster all of his\her energies to engage and fight cancer. These are a few suggestions that will help you prepared to carry the biggest fight of your life.

X-Rays, CT SCans, Dental X-Rays May Be Killing You

February 3, 2014

Americans are receiving more testing and imaging that makes use of ionizing radiation than ever before. The healthcare profession knows that excessive radiation can be a contributing factor to many forms of cancer such as leukemia (blood cancer) breast cancer, and thyroid cancer just name a few.

Ionizing radiation is high-frequency radiation that has enough energy to remove an electron from (ionize) an atom or molecule. Ionizing radiation has enough energy to damage the DNA or the genetic makeup inside cells, which in turn may lead to cancer.

Ionizing radiation is a proven human carcinogen (cancer causing agent). The evidence for this comes from many different sources, including studies of atomic bomb survivors in Japan, people exposed during the Chernobyl nuclear accident, people treated with high doses of radiation for cancer and other conditions, and people exposed to high levels of radiation at work, such as uranium miners.

Even though great strides have been made in cancer prevention and treatment, cancer rates remain high and may soon surpass heart disease as the leading cause of death in the United States. One of the important culprits may come from your doctor who is prescribing excessive imaging studies that make use of ionizing radiation. The use of medical imaging with high-dose radiation — CT scans in particular — has soared in the last 20 years. Our resulting exposure to medical radiation has increased more than six fold between the 1980s and 2006. The radiation dose of CT scans (a series of X-ray images from multiple angles) is 100 to 1,000 times higher than conventional X-rays such as a chest X-ray.

The risks have been demonstrated directly in two large clinical studies in Britain and Australia. In the British study, children exposed to multiple CT scans were found to be three times more likely to develop leukemia and brain cancer. In a 2011 report sponsored by Susan G. Komen, concluded that radiation from medical imaging, and hormone therapy, the use of which has substantially declined in the last decade, were the leading environmental causes of breast cancer, and advised that women reduce their exposure to unnecessary CT scans.

One in 10 Americans undergo a CT scan every year, and many of them get more than one CT scan every year. While it is difficult to know how many cancers will result from medical imaging, a 2009 study from the National Cancer Institute estimates that CT scans conducted in 2007 will cause a projected 29,000 excess cancer cases and 14,500 excess deaths over the lifetime of those exposed. Given the many scans performed over the last several years, a reasonable estimate of excess lifetime cancers would be in the hundreds of thousands. Unless we change our current practices or overusing CT scans, 3 percent to 5 percent of all future cancers may result from exposure to medical imaging.

We know that these tests are overused. But even when they are appropriately used, they are not always done in the safest ways possible. The rule is that doses for medical imaging should be as low as reasonably achievable. But there are no specific guidelines for the imaging centers to use to identify what optimum low doses are, and thus there is considerable variation within and between institutions. The dose at one hospital can be as much as 50 times stronger than at another.

A recent study at one New York hospital found that nearly a third of its patients undergoing multiple cardiac imaging tests were getting a cumulative effective dose equivalent to 5,000 chest X-rays. And last year, a survey of nuclear cardiologists found that only 7 percent of stress tests were done using a “stress first” protocol (examining an image of the heart after exercise before deciding whether it was necessary to take one of it at rest), which can decrease radiation exposure by up to 75 percent.

But we still have a long way to go. Fortunately, we can reduce the rate of medical imaging by simply avoiding unnecessary scans and minimizing the radiation from appropriate ones. For example, emergency room physicians routinely order multiple CT scans even before examining a patient. For example a patient with possible diagnosis of a kidney stone can often be diagnosed with a history, a physical exam, a urine test, and very simple x-ray called a KUB which has minimal radiation exposure compared to a spiral CT scan that is so frequently ordered.

Better monitoring and guidelines would also help. The Food and Drug Administration oversees the approval of scanners, but does not have regulatory oversight for how they are used. We need clear standards, published by professional radiology societies or organizations like the Joint Commission or the F.D.A. In order to be accredited for CT scans, hospitals and imaging clinics should be required to track the doses they use and ensure that they are truly as low as possible by comparing them to published guidelines.

Patients have a part to play as well. Consumers can go to the website, http://www.choosingwisely.org, to learn about the most commonly overused tests. Before agreeing to a CT scan, they should ask: Will it lead to a better treatment and outcome? Would they get that therapy without the test? Are there alternatives that don’t involve radiation, like ultrasound or MRI? Even when we go to the dentist to have our teeth cleaned, we need to question the dentist about the routine use of dental x-rays and if you do get dental x-rays, it is important to wear a neck shield that protects your thyroid gland.

Bottom Line: We are probably receiving more radiation through medical tests and is important to question your doctor about the necessity of using so many imaging tests that increase our exposure to ionizing radiation.

A version of this op-ed appears in print in the New York Times on January 31, 2014.